Thursday afternoon, Sept. 8th, 3:45 pm or so, I arrived at Freight’s house to find several of the PAX already onsite ready for the road. The FUMC Van (Gray Ghost, at least for now) was steady and being loaded with no concept of what the next 48 hours would reign down on this poor vehicle, but we’ll get to that later. It was hot. By 4:30 pm we were off (Bandit, Monk, Defib, Pizza Man, Freight, Tool Time, Stroganoff) with a great send off from Whoopee and Sargento. We headed North with a relatively uneventful trip up to West Jefferson for the registration and ‘last supper’ before the unknown (at least unknown for YHC). On the way, Bandit handed me a sheet from Feelgood, some encouragement that I read aloud to the van. Bandit then informed us we had some notes from our families he would hand out before each leg along with a scripture from Feelgood. We read these aloud before each leg and I think it inspired us to move forward. Thanks Feelgood (HIM). Someone told us to look out for the white vans and the main street in W. Jefferson looked like an Avis Van Rental parking lot…white van after white van after white van until the Gray Ghost arrived. Boondocks Tap Room for the registration and Boondocks restaurant for the final meal.
Off we went toward Independence, VA and the Grayson Inn & Suites, courtesy of Pizza Man. We arrived somewhere between 9:00 -10:00, don’t recall the exact time. We got to witness an ‘almost’ Pizza Man beatdown of the poor girl at the registration desk as she told him there was only one bed per room. After a few minutes, we were able to decipher that she just was not clear as she was speaking in some local mountain language that we apparently could not translate.
As we finally settled down, I looked at the clock and realized we had to get up in about 4 hours……nice. 3:00 am…..in the van and on the road by 3:45 am. Arrive at Grayson Highlands State Park by about 4:35 am, unload. It was time to get it on. We struggled to find a name for our van as we did not want the van 2 group to do this for us and I’m not exactly sure when it happened but we settled on “Grumpy” as in bust out a grumpy. I think you can fill in the blanks.
Loaded down with reflective vest, blinking lights and my head lamp, I was ready to go. I had a few seconds to reflect on the task ahead (which I still had no real grasp on what we were doing). I was grateful for the opportunity to lead us out. GO! I’m going too fast. I was just passed by a blind guy and running buddy. Where’s Monk? Slow down. Speed up. All this was going through my head but I kept focused ahead and reached Monk, well I actually ran past him briefly but made the hand off. Hips hurt, knees hurt, but leg 1 done.
Here we really get going. This is where we started chasing the next runner along their route. As we drove leg 2 and quickly passed Monk along the road, we started to realize what we might have gotten ourselves into. I think the 5 runners in the van were grateful we were not running this leg, it was brutal, or sure seemed that way. Dark, gravel, elevation change, multiple turns…..help us. If this was a ‘hard’ leg, we were not looking forward to the very hard and mountain goat legs. We arrived at the 2nd EZ and began the wait, thinking it would be a while. Monk came in a few minutes later with a blazing hot finish. Hand off to Defib for leg 3. Suns coming up by now as Pizza Man took over from Defib. This provided us with the first on-course video from PM, it was fantastic. Freight takes over….where are we? Started to video the exchanges and sending out. Freight hands off to Tool Time for the roundabout leg #6 that would end at the first transition zone where Van 2 was waiting. It was good for Tool Time to release some of his ‘MCE’ (mumblechatter energy).
We arrived at the transition zone and found Van 2 and Dolph ready to go and Mayor’s classy key lanyard. Short break. Tool Time arrives. Dolph is gone. Good work on the first 6 legs for Van 1. Onward to Boone as we leapfrogged legs 7 – 12. Caught some lunch at Our Daily Bread, waited forever on Bandit and Monk to get some coffee and then headed to EZ 12 for the next exchange, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. Great EZ with hills all around and even a graveyard fenced in on an extreme hill. Some caught some sleep, some of us could not. Nice breeze but the temperature was rising. Van 2 arrived and the time was approaching for Whoopee to hand off to Stroganoff to start the 2nd round for everyone.
If I knew how to post videos, I would post this exchange as the PAX paid homage to Whoopee as he came up the hill. He was welcomed looking at several backsides in the middle of a set of Monkey Humpers, it was terrific. He handed off to me for what I knew was my toughest section (very hard, 1100′ elevation gain, 9.3 miles, 80+ degrees)…easy. Between mile 5.5 – 6, the calf cramps started. It was on. I slowed to a section of running and then a section of walking trying to not cramp more but was unsuccessful. I’m sure the guys were getting worried when my expected arrival time came and went. I finally approached the Blowing Rock City Pool and was told after they could hear me coming due to my screams of agony (or cries like a baby). I finally made the hand off and was escorted by Pizza Man and……Roscoe……Roscoe? What is Roscoe doing here? And his M? Great…I can only imagine what they were thinking…..Stroganoff is dying. Call 911. Nevertheless, I finished and yes, I was in a lot of pain. Monk took off as far as I know. Thanks for the support Roscoe. Aye!
Stroganoff was loaded into the back seat to head toward the next EZ. As we waited on Monk to arrive, Defib had to perform a Swedish massage on Stroganoff’s left calf…it was brutal. My leg literally seized up to where I could not move it and everyone in the van scattered as I screamed like a middle school girl that I could not move. In steps Defib, not sure out of obligation or fear that I might not be able to run my last leg. He worked a miracle and I asked for a cigarette after. Thanks Defib. Possibly the worst pain of my entire life. Sorry fellas. Defib then scrambled to find his bib. He eventually found it in my bag…at the last EZ I was throwing my stuff all over the back of the van in disgust as my legs throbbed in pain so there was no telling what ended up in my bag. Again, sorry.
Monk handed off to Defib and got to hear the agonizing story of my cramping legs, massage and cigarette from the other guys. I think they were afraid to get back in the van. Bandit convinced them they couldn’t walk so off we went toward Grandfather Mountain.
Defib arrives after his 10.5 mile section that might have included some elevation change…..”This is stupid. Just stupid.” This was followed by the Van 1 quote of this endeavor: “I am no longer an optimist.” Followed by more mumbling, I will never do this again, wait til I see Whoopee, this is his fault. (As of this moment, I believe Defib is a HC for next year).
Next EZ quickly as Pizza Man was blazing on a downhill 3.2 mile section…..under 20 minutes, are you kidding me? He barely broke a sweat. Freight was waiting for his shortest 3 mile section. Stroganoff still crying like a baby in the back of the van. Defib still mumbling never again. Tool Time waited for the final hand off of round 2 for van 1. Off he went….we could hear him the entire route. It was starting to get dark as we headed to meet up with van 2 at the next transition zone. Tool time arrives. Dolpbh is off. I think we began to realize at this point that we might actually finish this thing as long as Stroganoff didn’t implode during his next leg
Time to leapfrog legs 19 – 24 and head to the Bakersville F.D. in the middle of nowhere for some food and rest. Baked Potatoes actually hit the spot for me and we all tried to get some shut eye. Defib hit the soccer goal while some tried to sleep in the van…..but Tool Time even mumblechatters in his sleep and Monk spent 3 hours in the back of the van messing with his bag so no rest for the weary.
Van 2 arrived as the clock approached midnight with Whoopee on the trail toward Bakersville. I prepared both physically and mentally for leg 25, knowing I could have another leg problem. At the last EZ, Outhouse handed me a pair of compression socks and I put them on soon after van 1 was moving again. OMG…time for another cigarette. It felt so good. I was afraid to take them off. Thanks Outhouse. Whoopee arrived not long after midnight and I took off into the gloom, seriously, dark and foggy with no other runner in site. Stream running on my left almost the entire route, quiet…except for the Rush blaring from my phone. Red Barchetta carried me around the corners and up the slopes (you Rush fans will understand). I can only imagine what my guys were thinking as they waited for me to arrive. “If he cramps again, we’re going to take a DNF.”….yada, yada, yada. Somehow, I had no cramps and was able to maintain a decent pace the entire way. I think it was simply the fact that I knew each step took me closer to being done. Or maybe there was no way I was going to let the BRR Gashouse team down, not sure. As I climbed the last hill, I yelled…”Monk!!”, handed off to him and came to a stop. Looked up and just smiled. I was done. I had finished and was not dead and my legs were not cramping. I think Defib was more relieved than anyone.
Off we went to chase down Monk with Tool Time in the navigator seat. We took a wrong turn, but recovered and made it to the next EZ. Monk knocked it out with a great pace as he did on every leg and handed off to Defib for another long run 9.1 miles this time. Me thinks Monk was happy to be done. Showered and he proceeded to cozy up in his sleeping bag in row 1 for some well deserved sleep over the next several sections and EZ’s.
Defib arrived at EZ 27 after completing almost 25 miles, the most of anyone in either van. T-Claps my good man. Again we heard from Defib that he will never do this again. Pizza Man was off again with more videos as this was winding down and we could see the light. Hand off to Freight at EZ 28 for Freight’s last run. Not long after, we received a dark video with only audio…”This is Freight. Running sucks!”. Nothing else to say.
We headed to EZ 29 and we began to notice more teams that we did not recognize had caught up to us and this continued. It was also about this time that I began to realize just how much of a cesspool our van had become. It was not pretty, in fact, it was rather disgusting. The back of the van was down right unpleasant. We continued to move forward.
EZ 29. More activity. Vans we were seeing for the first time waiting for Freight to arrive. Still dark. Middle of the night. Fright arrives. Tool Time takes off for the last leg for Van 1. Headed to last Transition Zone to meet up with Van 2. EZ 30 is where we witnessed the Charlotte Running Club (starting at 1:30 pm) catch up with us after starting 8.5 hours after us. They were sprinting through each leg..had to be. Made me want to vomit.
Caught up with van 2 (Fury) at this terrific EZ serving breakfast, that’s right, pancakes & sausage and coffee. It was terrific….close to requiring another cigarette. Tool Time arrived, handed off to Dolph. Now what? Van 1 was done. I don’t think we knew what to do.
We loaded up and headed toward Asheville and the finish line knowing Van 2 was putting in the work to bring it home. We were heading against the flow of runners at this point for a while and this helped us begin to understand what we had accomplished so far as we passed runner after runner. Not sure how many we passed but it was a large number and was humbling to realize what we were a part of.
We were the first van to arrive at the finish area, even before the finish line was set up and we parked next to the grass where we had an area to relax, shower, eat, etc. YMCA for showers, Starbucks for coffee, sleeping bags for rest….all this going on as we waited the few hours for Whoopee to arrive at the end of his Glory Leg.
My M even showed up to lend her support to me and the entire group. I believe she came to understand over the past few months how important this was to me and how highly I think of all you guys. I think she wanted to get a glimpse of it. We waited and as a few groups started to arrive we moseyed to the road to watch for Whoopee. We got the 1 mile text and the anticipation was on. Mumblechatter, laughter, smiles, pats on the backs, high fives, fist pumps….it was terrific. We waited and has he was coming down the hill, we gathered on the corner to run through the finish line just behind our Nantan. Here he was, high fiving as he went by. All of us followed behind and crossed the line in 30:32. How about that? 8:53/mile. Not bad my friends, not bad at all. More laughter and smiles and high fives before a great lunch compliments of Whoopee’s sister. Time well spent at the park with good food, cold beer and good friends. Home now.
As I reflected on the last 48 hours or so, I came to realize it wasn’t about our finishing time or pace. For me, it was about the training time to accomplish something I had never done before and never imagined attempting before F3. It was about the push to finish, the encouragement directed toward others to finish, the gratitude to others for the safety (Bandit & Mayor), the time well spent. The total team effort. As I struggled up that last hill on my 2nd leg with both legs and toes cramping, I wasn’t thinking about myself, I was thinking about finishing so I would not let you guys down. If I had been on that road alone, I would have called it in. That rock would have rolled back over me. Instead I was able to lean forward with both hands in front and push that bastard forward. Even though no one was with me on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I was not alone. You guys lifted me up to keep moving forward just like you have the last 18 months since my first post at the Gashouse. Like Whoopee stated in his Van 2 BB, if you weren’t out there on the road with us, it’s hard to explain. I think I could write another 2,000 words and not get it all. It’s about that guy next to you. Hell, I want to do it again. All the pain, lack of sleep, cesspool van, lack of good food, port-a-jons, etc. all of it. Let’s go.
You guys rock. Thanks for the journey.
Until the next one. Aye!